PART 2– https://yourstoryclub.com/short-stories-suspense-thriller/short-story-suspense-lottery-murder-part-2/
Collins staggered outside onto Centre Street into what seemed to be a blazing sun. Although his entire ordeal had taken a little under an hour it seemed to him as though a large chunk of time had elapsed. The sun seemed to be bigger and brighter, higher in the sky than it was, and he was sweating and had a headache, the first signs of a brutal hangover approaching. He wandered south with no idea of where he was really going, stopped at a vendor and ate three hotdogs, then continued walking south.
He remembered being in some of these buildings, showing apartments during his brief stint as a real estate agent. It was a crap job like every other job he had ever had. He would walk a couple into what had obviously been an office of some kind two or three days ago. There would be lines in the carpet from where the cubicle partitions had been, an unusually high number of phone jacks and electrical outlets, an over sized bathroom with a lone toilet remaining among the rubble of broken sheet rock and a yet to be installed bathtub shoved into a corner.
“Now imagine to yourselves” he would begin in his mind, “that this place isn’t a complete sh*thole.”
He would go into his spiel, for couples this would make a great starter home, with easy access to the courts, Chinatown, and the financial district, very convenient if you had to go to court, wanted an egg roll, or had some reason to go into the financial district. There were a few nice bars down by the water,too. It was a nice area to drink beer on a sunny or rainy afternoon, watch the ferry and assorted barges and yachts drift along, imagine another life in the merchant marines, a hard life at sea that would probably cripple him in a matter of hours. He noticed he had been drifting toward those bars.
It was a far walk, access to the financial district and Chinatown wasn’t quite as good as he had used to make it out to be. But the sad thing was that in this city, for the price, the lousy apartments he used to shill were actually a pretty good deal. The problem was that the residents of NYC didn’t use real estate agents, at least not the kind that worked at his old office. His office catered to the lower rent crowd. Those residents found apartments on their own, so he had primarily dealt with people moving into the city from places like Iowa or Ohio, places where it was unthinkable to pay $1200 a month for an apartment that could fit into their parents’ garage. These kids thought that their apartment would be like the NYC apartments they saw on sitcoms, they were unfamiliar with the reality of grown men in their 30’s and 40’s with full time jobs splitting crummy apartments full of mice and roaches, they were unfamiliar with reality in general.
Collins walked into a donut shop and bought a box of donuts. He ate them as he walked along the street. An old biddy with her head down in a terrible hurry plowed right into him and knocked a few of his donuts up out of the box, they bounced against his shirt and fell back, leaving his shirt partially covered in powdered sugar and jelly. It was obviously her fault, she hadn’t been watching where she was going, but she stared up at Collins irritably and muttered “Idiot!” before turning to go on her way.
“Hold it!” yelled Collins. “You just hold it right there, lady.”
The old woman turned to face him, clearly flummoxed. “What the hell do you want now, idiot?”
Collins walked up to her nice and slow. He voice remained calm and low.
“What the hell is to stop me from following you home and murdering you you rotten old hag?”
“What did you say to me?”
“You heard me you stupid old bi*ch. I want you to… ”
Collins was interrupted by an arm interceding, gently pulling him away from the old woman. It was the young lawyer, the one Abrams had sent to expedite his bail. He started to lead Collins away. The old woman hollered some obscenities and continued on her way, head down, cursing as she walked.
“So Abrams got a babysitter for me.”
“What the hell is wrong with you, talking like that? You’re lucky no one from the press was around. Out of court for 10 minutes and threatening to murder little old ladies.”
“Why the hell shouldn’t I? And why would the press care about me?”
But Collins knew the answer. He wasn’t himself anymore. He was a millionaire and a murder suspect. He was a lottery winner accused of murdering a pretty young lady. The first thing he had done after winning the lottery was move into a decent apartment of his own for once, no more apartment mates, no more waiting for the toilet. If he hadn’t won the lottery he probably would have murdered someone eventually.
“Are you listening to a word I’m saying?”
“No.” replied Collins. “Come on, kid. We’re going to a bar.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“You, Abrams, you all think too much. I’m going to a bar. You can either skulk along behind me or we can try to act like adults.”
The kid’s name was Harris, Oliver Harris. He had an old man’s name in Collins’ opinion. They were sitting at a booth in a bar with giant fake sharks and other sea creatures nailed to the walls and over the archways. Smoking had been illegal in bars in NYC for years but this bar didn’t seem to care. Collins smoked and drank Budweiser with shots of Jameson. The hotdogs and donuts had settled his stomach and his headache was beginning to go away. He was still sweating and felt overheated but he usually felt too warm. Oliver had been uptight to start but was beginning to loosen up. It was nearly two in the afternoon and it had taken a lot of doing to get Oliver started, but he was well into his third beer now. It is difficult to sit sober on a warm day and watch another man pour cold beers into his face.
Oliver’s story was one you might expect. Upper middle class background, grew up in Queens, graduated third in his class from some prestigious sounding place, one of the youngest attorneys at Chaney, Adams, Clark, and Abrams. He was an up and comer, he had that wolfish look about him, with well defined cheek bones and penetrating dark eyes. He had been professionally friendly if stoic at first, a man doing his job, but Collins could feel the walls coming down. He could feel the inevitable question coming.
“So”, asked Oliver, “What was it like to win the lottery? I mean I have an idea of what it must be like, but what’s the actual procedure? What happens to you?”
Collins gulped at his beer.
“The first thing that happens, once the ticket is validated and all that nonsense is through with, is you sit down with a lawyer.”
“Figures.” said Oliver.
“You’re advised to change your phone number immediately, quit your job, shack up at a hotel while you move or abandon your old apartment. I didn’t even get to quit my job. The lawyer convinced me that it would be better if I let them handle everything, the hotel, breaking the lease, hiring movers, etc. He explained to me they’d been through this all before hundreds of times, knew exactly what to do, and as it didn’t require any effort or work on my part I told him to go ahead.”
“I get it. Old “friends” pop up out of the woodwork, distant relatives asking for loans. But what about your actual friends, people you want to stay in touch with?”
“By the time you get to be my age you can live without just about anyone. Your coworkers, friends, they’re just rats in the same trap. You make the best of it while you’re stuck together. Mainly it’s a relief. I didn’t have much of a life, I still don’t, but leaving that life for this one was a no brainer.”
Oliver drank his beer and ordered another. Collins followed suit and indicated to the bartender to put it all on his tab.
“I always wasted money like this,” said Collins. “I could never help myself. I always drank too much, I never cared much about anything. This isn’t much of a change for me, except I don’t have to worry about going broke.”
Collins took a big gulp of his new beer. Most lottery winners went broke, but Oliver had a feeling Collins was right. Collins hadn’t changed a bit. He still wore the same old suits, he didn’t go out and buy a fancy car or a condo. Just a reasonable two bedroom apartment in Manhattan, the kind of place any self respecting adult would want and most professionals earning decent money could afford. Maybe this was why the press was having trouble pining Collins down. They expected him to splurge at the Waldorf or buy a yacht or at least stop hanging out in whatever bar happened to be at hand.
Collins had a basic pattern but its execution was random. He slept when he was tired, was often drunk by 9am, and didn’t favor any particular restaurants or bars. He lived life like some kind of video game character, he was dragged to wherever he had to be, then wandered off aimlessly picking up whatever he needed or wanted as he went along. He had slept in bars as many nights as he had spent in his new apartment. If he was kicked out he stayed at whatever hotel was at hand. He was mild and unassuming, he didn’t stand out in crowds or cause scenes, or at least any scenes that would stand out in NYC.
“I was wondering,” asked Collins, “about the witness protection program. I hear most of those guys get stuck in suburban hell holes with rotten jobs, end up going back to crime, back to jail, repeating the cycle for as long as they live to or until they’re too old to cause much of a bother. Is this is how it really is? Do you lawyer types know any secrets about the witness program?”
Oliver laughed. “I don’t really know anything about anything at this point. The firm has worked with the feds, Abrams probably knows some stories. All I’ve heard are rumors.”
“Well you’ve got to tell me a few now that you’ve brought it up.”
“You actually brought it up but I’ll tell you about one. I heard this one from Abrams. He doesn’t usually talk to nobodies like me but he has a skeptical bent to him, even for a lawyer. He has these little conspiracy theories, he doesn’t really take them seriously, he doesn’t take anything seriously that doesn’t involve money or power or screwing somebody over, but I get the feeling he’s only half kidding. He has a theory about the lottery, too. All his theories revolve around money, about the whys and hows of money.”
“So what’s his take on the witness protection program?”
Oliver took a long pull of beer. “He knows about the same stories you do, most of what you said is true, but he has a theory about the big fish. The guys with really vital information related to treason, nation building, big fish crimes the man really cares about.”
“I thought you were the man, or at least a part of the man.”
“I’m just another cog in the system. Anyway, these guys, because of the value of their information, demand private castles on faraway islands, government protection, relocation for their extended families, access to all the goodies they’ve been used to their entire lives, and they expect to get it because they always have. Their entire lives, everything has worked out for them. Abrams has expedited some of these cases, he says these guys are the least suspicious, the easiest to convince.
They’re just fastidious about the paperwork, about having their own lawyers go over all the contracts, all the details of the contracts. The government people seem bored with it all. They put up a little bit of a fight, Abrams says they do it for show, but in the end they agree to everything, and why shouldn’t they? We’re the richest most powerful country in the world, what’s a mansion here and there to take down factions planning treason or military coups. But Abram’s doesn’t see it that way.”
“Let me guess,” said Collins. “A bullet to the head is cheaper than a mansion. Why keep these assholes around when you’ve squeezed everything you can out of them.”
“That’s the basic theory. Instead of a mansion, you and your entire family end up buried in a ditch somewhere or reduced to ash in a blast furnace.”
Collins laughed. “It’s good to know I have a guy like Abrams on my side. Or at least that I happen to be on his side for the time being.”
“Abrams may be cynical, hell, he’s probably right about most of it, but he’s a damn good lawyer and he’s never screwed over anyone he’s represented. You’ll walk away from this clean as a whistle. And then maybe you can buy some decent suits, learn what it feels like to be rich, enjoy life a little bit.
“It’s funny,” said Collins, “Abrams said something very similar to me.” Collins paused for a moment. “You aren’t going to get in trouble for this, for drinking all day with me and shooting the sh*t?”
“As long as you don’t kill any old ladies or burn any bars down. What was your problem with that woman anyway? You’ve lived here long enough, everyone’s an asshole.”
“My problem with her and people like her is that they just don’t think. They don’t think about all the anger and misery they’re adding to the world, and they can’t imagine any consequences because their life is the consequence, their horrible little lives that they hate. I feel sorry for them. That’s why I yelled at that lady. I usually ignore them, but she got donut all over my shirt.”
TO BE CONTINUED…